Saturday, February 03, 2007

Boxing in the Floodplains

When I was 23, living in Kalispell Montana with my boyfriend Jim in a little log house with two dogs and a pack of banty hens, I tried boxing. I went twice a week to a tiny shack stuck in the floodplains along the Whitefish River. Calling it a river was like calling the sweat running down my butt crack a waterfall. But then, that there's something to think about, considering the torrent of sweat during each practice. My clubmates, two ten-year-olds and an eight-year-old, laughed at me behind their enormous gloves, as well they should have. I was an upper-middle-class girl-woman, smartypants about nothing important. I thought I knew what was hard and what was easy, what hurt and what didn't, but I was a silly silly girl. Priveleged and lucky and blissfully ignorant. I know now, boxing is hard and everything else is easy. Boxing hurts and everything else, well, let's just say you don't need your nose reset if you pay the water bill a week late. The boys knew, and they watched in amusement as I slowly and painfully figured it out.

My first day we were told to run down to the end of the dirt road and come back. It was our warm up. Sure thing! I said. Come on boys! I like boys. They're easy to tease, cajole, push and shove. I said I'll race ya! I ran to the end, maybe a half-mile. The boys were a good 200 yards behind me screwing around, throwing rocks at dead cars by the trailers along the road. But when I doubled back at the end of the road, they turned around when I did, so that I had to sprint to catch them and beat them back. We reached the shack at the same time, me panting and sweating, them grinning and punching each other. I was their joke. All three of them hawked and spat before we reentered the darkness of the shack.

The heavy bag session was next. The coach, the red-headed kid's dad, smoked a full pack of Luckys in the 2-hour practice, and a cigarette dangled from his lips as he wrapped my hands in some coarse canvas material. He said it was to prevent my fingers from breaking and without saying any more, he strapped some gloves on my tight fists. We went at the bags for 5 60-second periods, punching non-stop in flurried combinations. Jab jab cross. Jab jab cross. Jab jab cross jab hook. Jab jab cross jab hook. Whatever he called out we repeated until he yelled out a different combo. After the second round of 60-seconds my shoulders were on fire and my punches were as effective as insults. I was breathing in ragged gasps, and another two rounds later my chicken and rice soup was threatening a return appearance. I finished the last round of 60 by pretending I was shaking hands with Jimmy Carter (I may have been hallucinating). It was like a vigorous extension of my arm in the direction of the white canvas bag. It could not have looked less like a boxing maneuver. I also noticed on the last 60-second session that whenever the coach walked to the door to puff on the cigarrette he had left resting on the ledge outside the shack two of the older boys quit punching and dangled their tired spaghetti-thin arms. I was too good for that, I guess. But I took note.

After a quick drink, which I had neglected to bring and nobody offered, footwork was next. But that's a misnomer. When you think of boxers, you think hopping. I did. We were told to move around the bag, jabbing after every third step. When Coach said go, I got my hop on. Bounce bounce bounce jab! Yeah! I'm doin it! Everyone stopped, looked at me and laughed. Coach even cut short his Lucky puff, to come back in and say, "Quit that goddamn hopping. Watch the boys," before going back out to light the next one. The boys. Laughing, they all started hopping around in circles like they were being pulled on a string attached to their necks. Apparentlly you don't hop. You step purposefully - almost a calculated plod. And you jab every third step. And also? Apparently you stop to take a break whenever Coach isn't watching. I had a lot to learn.

(To be continued.)


Blogger Bimbo said...

Damn that was good!

2/04/2007 8:21 AM  
Blogger meno said...

That picture is perfect.

Please do continue.

2/04/2007 1:38 PM  
Anonymous TB said...

Great imagery

2/04/2007 4:59 PM  
Blogger mamatulip said...

I love it. Gimmie more.

2/05/2007 5:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm hanging...
Can't wait. Going back to read again.

2/05/2007 10:36 AM  
Blogger Esereth said...

"I was an upper-middle-class girl-woman, smartypants about nothing important. I thought I knew what was hard and what was easy, what hurt and what didn't, but I was a silly silly girl."

There it is. There she is. Concise and vivid, perfect writing.

2/05/2007 11:40 AM  
Anonymous wordgirl said...

The first trainer I ever had made us do boxing as well as kick boxing. It was hard...but DAMN! my arms and lets haven't looked that good since then!

2/05/2007 11:42 AM  
Blogger Tink said...

I get the feeling I could read your blog for years and still not know a sliver of who you are and all that you've done. You're one of those rare people that is always entertaining and NEVER boring.

2/06/2007 10:34 AM  
Blogger mamalujo1 said...

I believe I am going to enjoy reading as you dig up this one.

2/06/2007 11:46 AM  
Blogger Oh, The Joys said...

Bring it on! (a.k.a. MORE PLEASE!!)

2/10/2007 11:28 AM  
Blogger Arabella said...

I had no idea it was so difficult. Boxers make it look so light and easy...almost like choreography.

2/11/2007 12:46 PM  

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